Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
November 17, 2004
BASEBALL: M V Vlad
If you look at the Win Shares numbers from the Hardball Times, you can see that the AL MVP race was, for all intents and purposes, a dead heat between the top five candidates, each of whom was worth approximately 10 wins to his team:
In a race like that, the more intangible factors - that Guerrero's team was unusually dependent on him (unlike the big Yankee sluggers, who could feed off each other) and that he closed with a bang to push the Angels over the top in the AL West in September, are good reason to give Guerrero the benefit of the doubt. Specifically, in 12 September-October games against Oakland and Texas, Guerrero scored 13 runs, drove in 14, hit 8 home runs, and batted .478/1.087/.547. Interestingly, the "Win Shares Above Average" figures - comparing each player to an average player with similar playing time - give a slightly different picture:
This would seem to support breaking Sheffield away from the pack a bit, especially since I'm not sure that WSAA is a valid basis for a straight-line comparison of a starting pitcher to an everyday player. It's still close enough that I'd give Guerrero the benefit of the doubt, though. I'm particularly suspicious that WSAA seems to favor players with little or no defensive value. For what it's worth, the Baseball Prospectus (subscription only) rates Guerrero #1 in the AL by a fairly decisive margin by its "VORP" (Value Over Replacement Level) rating for position players:
I'm not sure I understand VORP, one of BP's famously intricate measurements, well enough to figure out (1) why Vlad takes such a leap forward by its calculations or (2) why all the Yankees take such a beating (the big three all clock in below 65, with Matsui down around 55). One thing Guerrero did very well this year was slash his usually high number of caught stealings (3 in 18 attempts, compared to an average of 13 in 37 attempts the prior four years); he also grounded into 19 DPs, down a bit on a per-at-bat level from prior years, by cutting his ground ball/fly ball ratio to a career low. These are little things, but the caught stealings in particular had been a quiet drag on Guerrero's production in the past, and Mike Scioscia should get some credit if he's the one who convinced Guerrero to run less.
Another random note: Guerrero's patience at the plate did not fall off as dramatically as it might have appeared; his intentional walks dropped to 14 from an average of 25 a year his last four years in Montreal, but his rate of unintentional walks/at bats was 6.2%, as compared to 7.5% those prior four years.